Williams rises for opener

8-28-01, 2:05 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Backup safety Darryl Williams, left for injured reserve two weeks ago, is expected to return for the regular-season opener after undergoing the "ideal ankle rehab."

In fact, Williams could play in an emergency situation Thursday against the Colts, just 17 days after he partially tore ligaments in his left ankle during an Aug. 13 practice. Williams had been in the mix to regain his starting free safety job from Chris Carter and he's a key player on passing downs.

"I just did what they told me to do," Williams said Tuesday as he pulled on an ankle brace before practice. "Personally, I don't even really think I

need this. This is just a precautionary measure."

Williams has started jogging on land after spending the past few days on an underwater treadmill. The Bengals would prefer he sit still until the Sept. 9 opener, which would be a day shy of four weeks from the injury. That's two weeks earlier than the best-case prediction following the injury.

But the Bengals didn't think they were going to have an emergency at safety Saturday night with Williams in street clothes. Then Tremain Mack hurt his shoulder, Cory Hall got ejected and Carter had to limp into the game after being scratched with a hamstring problem.

"He's the ideal guy because he did everything we asked and we asked a lot," said trainer Paul Sparling. "Cold whirlpool, electrical stimulation, jogging underwater, elevation, massage. He's been in here constantly."

So it looks like Williams, heading into his 10th season, will play in his 142nd game in the opener. That's out of a possible 145. He missed three games in Seattle with a bad hamstring in 1999.

"I like to think I keep myself in shape," Williams said. "I wanted to put myself in position to play and things worked out."

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